10 years ago I helped a woman I barely knew escape from a violent relationship. Her boyfriend beat her up badly but never went to prison because the cops didn’t believe her, even though she was quite bruised. She had nowhere else to go so I offered my home as a safe place to take refuge while she figured things out.
Shortly after, things turned sour because she thought I was trying to get between her new relationship. She often lied. She broke many of my things, spread awful rumors about me to my friends, and threatened to burn my house down with me in it. It was a very painful time but she eventually left.
She recently contacted me to apologize, saying she was hurting deeply and that I helped save her life. She was grateful and wanted me to know.
At first, I didn’t know how to react. The pain resurfaced. But I forgave her and hoped she found peace. She now helps run a support group for women who have been abused.
I think we often bury trauma but the pain subtly affects us in so many ways. When we withhold a genuine apology or forgiveness from others, it hurts others as well as ourselves. I didn’t realize that the incident built up mistrust in others, perhaps made it more difficult for me to care for friends when they needed it because I was so hurt. For her, she carried that guilt and pain for so long.
Apologies and forgiveness don’t cost us anything but a little pride. But they provide more returns than we could ever imagine – even if it’s been a while.